School board actions underhanded

Published 11:49 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Things are not only “rotten in Denmark!” Our appointed school board has acted in ways that make Banana Republics look good! Underhanded and sneaky methods are only a part of the problem.

One school board member is stooping to instigate racial division in order to get what he wants, and then blames the people who oppose their tax increase for causing racial unrest. Unbelievable!

Let’s start at the beginning. The school board published its intention to borrow $9 million during the Fourth of July holiday, most probably to avoid alerting the public that it was going to circumvent the electoral process. They rightly assumed that most people would be out of town or too busy to take notice. This shortened the time to get opposition to the proposal organized and to gather petitions. The $9 million, plus their intention to raise an additional $25 million through a lease program, totals the $34 million that was voted down handily in the special May ballot.

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At the next scheduled board meeting on July 20, when supporters presented over 3,300 signatures of the 4,000 that they were told were needed to put the proposed borrowing on the November ballot, no one had answers to questions such as: Do we have until 7 a.m. the next morning to collect the rest of the signatures? (Technically we should have had.) Can you tell us if the 15 days given to collect the petitions includes weekends? The board told us we would need to ask its attorney, who conveniently was not in attendance.

The board’s attorney, Bruce Kuehnle, was asked after the called July 28 meeting why he had not gone to the scheduled July 20 meeting, and why he had not answered or returned anyone’s calls regarding the petitions presented there. (He even avoided people who went to his office.) His response was that he was on important school board business. Really, Mr. Kuehnle? For six days? You had no phone? Mr. Kuehnle has a $66,000 yearly stipend from our school district. His not being present or ever responding to calls guaranteed that time would run out to gather additional signatures on the petition. This puts his integrity and that of the entire board into question. It might also raise questions as to the legality of the process.

There’s another question to be addressed. Why was the newest appointed school board member, Renee Davis Wall, not sworn in before any of the school board votes? I know Dr. Wall personally, and she is a very intelligent, level-headed, young woman who graduated from our public schools. My suspicion is someone, or some ones, is afraid that she won’t go along with the board.

Probably the most egregious stunt pulled was the hastily called board meeting of July 25. The meeting was called with a 3 hour and 33 minute notice. Though legal, it assured that the public would not have adequate notice. At that meeting, the board voted to move forward and borrow the money. Their actions proved to many that our community could not trust the board to act in good faith. Our superintendent and others have pleaded, “Let’s come together as a community.” That’s going to be a “hard sell” after the blatant disrespect the board has shown to our democratic process.

If you missed the article in the paper on July 30, go back and read Supervisor Ricky Gray’s quotes. He blames people who have expressed opinions contrary to his as divisive and “The Natchez Democrat for printing opinions that add fuel to the fire.” Perhaps he is unaware that our democracy is based on the principle of free speech and the guarantee of a free press to provide dissent. Phillip West and Ricky Gray have twisted this whole issue into a racial one with statements such as “they (the white community?) don’t want to educate our children.” Nothing could be further from the truth. An educated work force is what Natchez desperately needs. The Natchez-Adams School District, with a state rating of “F,” an expenditure of $11,200 per student and 707 employees, is not even coming close to providing it!

Yes, it is time for our community to join together! We need to stop the “end running” our school board has done and start doing whatever is necessary to provide a decent education for our children, no matter who it makes unhappy.
Marcia McCullough is a Natchez resident.